Monday, March 13, 2017

Senator John Cornyn's tribute to the Lost Battalion



U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX)

Mr. CORNYN. Mr. President, this week, we remember the brave men of Texas who gave so much to preserve freedom in the Pacific and survived the greatest horrors of World War II. Soldiers of 2nd Battalion, 131st Field Artillery Regiment from Camp Bowie, TX, a Texas National Guard unit, were fighting alongside Australian forces on Java, an island in Indonesia, against invading Japanese forces. On March 8, 1942 the Americans and their Australian allies were captured by the Japanese. A report was never filed by the Japanese to identify the captured unit. As a result, the Texas soldiers had disappeared and were dubbed ``the Lost Battalion.''

They were combined with survivors of the USS Houston, CA-30, which had been sunk in the Battle of Sunda Strait on March 1, 1942, and dispersed to POW labor camps located in Burma, Thailand, and Japan to work as slave laborers. They worked on the Burma-Siam Death Railway, building a railroad through the jungle and into the coal mines, docks, and shipyards in Japan and other Southeast Asian countries. For 42 months, the men of 2nd Battalion, 131st Field Artillery and the USS Houston suffered together through humiliation, degradation, physical and mental torture, starvation, and horrible tropical diseases, with no medication.

Five hundred and thirty-two soldiers of the battalion, along with 371 survivors of the USS Houston were taken prisoner. As many as 163 soldiers died in captivity, and of those, 133 are estimated to have died working on the railroad.

In August of 1945, after 42 months of captivity and forced labor, the survivors of 2nd Battalion, 131st Field Artillery Regiment and the survivors of the USS Houston were returned to the United States. March 8, 2017, marks the 75th year since their capture on the island of Java, and these soldiers deserve to be remembered for their heroic service and sacrifices in the Pacific theater of battle.

From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office
March 8, 2017
115th Congress, 1st Session
Issue: Vol. 163, No. 40 — Daily Edition
[Page S1686]

Friday, March 03, 2017

Senator Ted Cruz's tribute to the USS HOUSTON (CA-30)

115th Congress, 1st Session
Issue: Vol. 163, No. 37 — Daily Edition

Mr. CRUZ. Mr. President, yesterday marked the 75th anniversary of the sinking of the USS Houston (CA-30), the ``flagship'' of the U.S. Asiatic Fleet, which fought bravely against the Imperial Japanese Navy Battle Fleet. During an engagement on March 1, 1942, the USS Houston and the Australian cruiser HMAS Perth were sunk at the Battle of Sunda Strait, suffering a combined loss of nearly 1,000 servicemen; the surviving sailors and marines became prisoners of war. After the war, it was revealed that they had been sent to Japan and then transferred to the mainland and used as slave labor for construction of the Thai- Burma Railway. Only 266 men from the Houston's complement of 1,008 and 214 of the Perth's complement of 681 returned home after the war. The news of this horrific loss hit the Lone Star state hard, but with typical Texan gusto and determination, it prompted a mass recruiting drive for volunteers to replace the lost crew. On Memorial Day 1942, a crowd of nearly 200,000 witnessed 1,000 ``Houston Volunteers'' inducted into the Navy. An accompanying bond drive raised over $85 million, enough to pay for a new cruiser and an aircraft carrier, the USS San Jacinto. This historic event speaks to the American spirit and grit as well as our enduring alliance with Australia. 

In honor of this occasion, we remember the brave men of Texas, and all of those from the Greatest Generation, who gave so much to preserve freedom in the Pacific and fight for America. They fought for country and liberty in the face of impossible odds. These sailors, soldiers, and marines represent America's unbeatable determination.